Harlan County High School student Alisha Rhymer has had a busy summer enhancing her leadership skills.
Rhymer recently participated as her school’s representative in the Kentucky Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Academy in Lexington. Students finishing their sophomore year of high school and preparing to enter the junior year are eligible for selection into the program as ambassadors. The program seeks to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation.
“I thought it was great,” said Rhymer. “It taught me how I perceive myself as a leader and a person and it taught me what my leadership skills are and how to use them in a group with other leaders. It taught me how to work with others.”
Rhymer said HOBY participants held a mock “Amazing Race” through the streets of Lexington. As part of the activity, she said she learned that “every person leads in a different way but it is when you can come together in a group and successfully work together that makes you a good leader.”
Jamie Utt, a nationally recognized diversity speaker, author and consultant, was one of the presentations that left a lasting impression on Rhymer.
“Jamie Utt spoke about diversity in life and gave the ambassadors a new outlook on how we as leaders can treat others. He told us we can start working toward change now. We weren’t the future leaders of America — we are the leaders now.”
Utt’s workshop called “The Wall” works to break down the walls of prejudice, bigotry and hate in communities, and teaches participants to accept others of all backgrounds to overcome prejudices. His essential message is that if we want to build the kind of schools and communities where every single student feels safe and included, it is important to see that not as a problem that is outside themselves, but as a problem they have a responsibility for and they have an agency to fix it. It’s the chance for them to be the kind of change that they want to see. It is important that the judgments that may be running through the heads of some are essentially building walls between themselves and the people in the school and community. He encouraged the ambassadors to take the time to think critically about the flash judgments made about other people and try to take that person for who they are as an individual rather than the flash judgments. Then, it is possible to tear down those walls in hopes of building truly accountable relationships.
In addition, Rhymer said by participating in HOBY it gave her a glimpse into college life as she joined students from across the state on the Transylvania University campus in Lexington for the four days of seminars, special events and other activities which included community service.
Ambassadors participated in different projects, including the heARTS service project which was started by a HOBY alum to collect money and art supplies for schools in need areas.
Now that she has returned home, she is challenged with recording 100 hours of community service. This is something she won’t have a problem doing.
A college fair was held for participants, sharing information on what postsecondary schools are available in the state.
“I have options far and wide and I don’t have to select a major as soon as I go (to college),” she said.
While college visits are on her itinerary, she is considering Northern Kentucky University with a major in forensics psychology.
She currently volunteers in the Wacky Wednesday program at Mary Helen United Methodist Church.
She said the program helped her grow as an individual.
“It is tiring. It is stressful, but it is wild and you’ll love it,” she said. “Be prepared to cheer and make lots of friends. You’ll carry on the things you learn from HOBY for the rest of your life.”
In addition to HOBY, Rhymer has participated this summer in a full week of advanced courses at the Education Talent Search program at Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., and also toured Houston, New Orleans and Galveston Beach.
She has received numerous awards in the Kentucky Governor’s Cup academic competitions at the district and region levels.
She is the daughter of Ben and Brenda Rhymer and Genny Rhymer of Coalgood.